Texas Budget Gap: The Estimate Comes In, and It's Huge

Let's harken back to the blissful days of autumn 2010, when Governor Rick Perry was able to deflect any talk of a looming budget gap by blithely noting no official estimate for it had been made.

Democrats' talk that it might be as high as $25 billion was silly, he said; for all we know it might be in the single digits.

The eagerly anticipated number has come in this morning from state comptroller Susan Combs, and it is in the single digits --- but there are two of them: a two and a seven, as in $27 billion.

Meaning the Tea Party legislature that's just been elected to Austin will need to fill a $27 billion gap without raising any taxes, because God knows raising a tax would bring about an apocalypse of sorts.

Combs doesn't project the actual gap in her estimate; she just estimates what revenues the state will be getting, and pundits compare that with current spending.

Combs estimates Texas will receive $72.2 billion in taxes, fees and all the other pernicious methods in which it takes people's hard-earned cash. That's down from the $87 billion received by the state in its current budget.

"The recent recession has had its impact on the state revenue outlook as major revenue sources such as the sales tax generated less money in the last couple of years," Combs said. "While we have turned the corner to an economic recovery, the revenue estimate I'm releasing today is for moderate growth."

The state currently spends $99 billion, resulting in the gap. Conservative pundits are already saying there's only a gap if you assume spending should remain at the $99 billion level.

Which is just another way of saying massive cuts are coming. Get the popcorn and try to enjoy the show.

Update: Perry has issued a statement:

Comptroller Combs delivered a revenue estimate today that shows the Texas economy continuing to grow steadily ahead of the nation, yet, as expected, is also reflective of the national recession's lingering impact on state revenue. To ensure Texas continues to lead the nation's economic recovery, state leaders must remain good stewards of taxpayer dollars, continue strategic investments and stand by the proven fiscal principles that have helped us balance our state's budget when facing similar challenges in the past. As families and employers are doing all across this state and nation, we will separate the wants from needs, and then cut spending.

I am confident we will meet our state's needs within this revenue estimate by prioritizing spending without raising taxes, laying the foundation for our state's future prosperity.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly